NEW on LinkedIn: Volunteerism | npENGAGE

NEW on LinkedIn: Volunteerism

By on Sep 7, 2011

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LinkedIn, the professional social networking site that boasts more than 100 million members, just added a new profile feature: Volunteer Experiences and Causes.

Just like adding a current or past job, LinkedIn members can now add a current or past volunteer experience. The information for each listing includes the name of the organization, volunteer role, cause area (like human rights or children), dates and description.

Here’s an example from my personal profile.

Right now, LinkedIn helps members by suggesting oganizations as you type but doesn’t connect it back to the organization’s LinkedIn page.* I anticipate that changing in the near future. (It just makes sense if you ask me.) And if I’m right about that change then you are going to want to spruce up your org’s LinkedIn company page in advance.

In addition to a volunteer experience, members can also add broad causes they are interested in. While I don’t see any search functionality related to these causes at the moment, I’m curious to if we’ll see that in the future. Imagine if you could search for people who care about “arts and culture” in “Indianapolis”  or who care about “poverty alleviation” in “Portland” to find potential volunteers, donors and even employees.

It’s a new and growing feature on LinkedIn and I see great value add potential for nonprofits. However where the value really is at this moment is for your volunteers. You and your volunteer coordinator probably know and discuss the professional benefits of volunteerism on a regular basis. Volunteering with your organization provides your constituents with the opportunities to build skills they might not be able to nurture in the workplace. Fundraising, fiscal oversight, record keeping and public speaking are just a few of the many that come to mind.

Now LinkedIn is giving them the perfect place to add those skills and experiences to their online resume. In the current economy, and really at any time, volunteer experiences can add a differentiator to a job hunter’s resume. In fact according to the LinkedIn blog “new research from LinkedIn shows that one out of every five hiring managers in the U.S. agree they have hired a candidate because of their volunteer work experience.” It’s good for the volunteer and good for your organization and volunteer retention.

OK – we’ve covered the basics and now I have four action items for you and your organization.

  1. Update your organization’s LinkedIn company page. Be ahead of the curve.
  2. Alert your most dedicated volunteers (think board and committee members) of this opportunity and help them understand the value this adds to their professional resume.
  3. Mention this at your upcoming volunteer trainings, on a volunteer related webpage and through your social media outlets.
  4. Update your personal profile with your volunteer experiences and causes you care about.

What other action items or insights should we add?

*Update 9/16/11: When I first wrote this post it did not appear that the organization’s name was connected to the organization’s LinkedIn page. This blog post I read today said that they did so I investigated. I now have three volunteer experiences listed and here’s what I found. 1) The very small org that lacks a LinkedIn page doesn’t link back to anything. No surprise. 2) The small org that has a LinkedIn page but that may or may not be claimed by the org doesn’t link back. 3) The national organization with a robust LinkedIn page is linked back to. All that said, I’m not exactly sure what the criteria is to link back to organizations’ pages but it does appear to happen for at least some.

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